Not all Mississippi businesses plan to take advantage of a new law making it easier to discriminate against LGBT people in the name of religion. The American Family Association, apparently, would like to change that.
In a blog post published this week, the fundamentalist Christian activist group printed a list of what they called "Mississippi businesses that discriminate against religious freedom." That list, which the anti-LGBT group says is "taken directly from a pro-homosexual website," includes a number of businesses in the state who have agreed to display the sticker at right in their window. That sticker clarifies that the business in question will not refuse to serve a customer because of his or her sexual orientation.
The AFA believes this amounts to discrimination against Christians who might want to refuse to serve LGBT people in the state:
Ironically,this sticker represents the very promotion of discrimination...against the freedom of religious convictions. Businesses that display this sticker believe Christians should be forced, by law, to embrace homosexuality and deny their faith in personal business practices.
Get that? If you advertise that you don't discriminate, you're persecuting people who want to discriminate.
In fact, the "If You're Buying, We're Selling" campaign is a response to the state's new "religious freedom" law, which goes into effect on July 1. The vaguely-worded measure allows any person or business "whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government" to sue the government against those laws. As the Washington Post notes, the two sides of the debate over the bill disagree on its scope. Its supporters argue that the version of the bill that passed won't allow for discrimination, although the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins praised the measure because it would mean that "individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce.” And the American Family Association's own take on the bill notes that it will "protect Christian business owners against lawsuits from gay activists."
The ACLU remains opposed to the measure, especially after lawmakers refused to add language clarifying that the law can't be used against anti-discrimination laws. Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU told the Los Angeles Times that the new measure could, for example, be used to legally justify a health care worker's decision in the name of religion to deny fertility treatment to a lesbian couple.
The Mississippi sticker campaign does contribute to one major push from national gay rights groups: an awareness campaign about the existing LGBT communities in southern, conservative states. As Oklahoma and Virginia wait for the federal appeals courts to rule on challenges to their state bans on same-sex marriage, states across the south have had to contend with the possibility of equal marriage support and rights moving beyond the borders of traditionally liberal states. The Human Rights Campaign launched a video earlier this week highlighting those communities, part of an $8 million dollar campaign focused on Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama: